Trolls, Water, Time, and Community: Resource Management in the Mývatn District of Northeast Iceland

Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 11)


The Mývatn area in northeast Iceland has been occupied by farming communities since the arrival of Viking Age settlers in the late ninth century. Despite its inland location and relatively high elevation, this lake basin was affected by continuous human occupation through periods of harsh climate, volcanic eruptions, epidemics, and world system impacts. Mývatn’s residents have practised farming, fishing, egg-collecting, and hunting activities for over a millennium. They managed the landscape and its resources with the use of traditional knowledge, which included the story of the troll woman, Kráka, who lived in a cave in the mountain Bláfjall (“Blue Mountain”). The story of Kráka and the river Kráká that bears her name provides a striking metaphor for the landscape history including water resources and environmental changes the agricultural community sustained over time.


Iceland Folklore Mývatn Sustainable management Trolls Viking age Wetlands 



This research was made possible by generous grants from the National Geographic Society, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Leverhulme Trust, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Leifur Eiriksson Fellowship Program, the American Scandinavian Foundation, and the US National Science Foundation (awards: 0732327; 1140106; 1119354; 1203823; 1203268; 1202692; 1249313; 0527732; 0638897; 0629500; 0947862; 1446308). Also funding from RANNIS (Icelandic Research Council award 163133-051) and from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond of Sweden (award P16-0605:1) is gratefully acknowledged. We would also like to extend our warmest thanks to our host communities in Iceland who have supported this work and partnered in the investigation of their own rich heritage as a source for education for sustainability.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Reykjavík AcademyReykjavíkIceland
  2. 2.School of GeoSciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Hunter College, CUNYNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Stefansson Arctic InstituteAkureyriIceland
  5. 5.Natural History Museum of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  6. 6.Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)BoulderUSA
  7. 7.National Museum of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  8. 8.University of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  9. 9.Mývatn Research StationMyvatnIceland
  10. 10.Mälardalen UniversityVästeråsSweden
  11. 11.Stirling UniversityStirlingUK
  12. 12.Institute of Archaeology, IcelandReykjavíkIceland

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